The first time I saw Cirque du Soleil, I was in real danger of catching flies in my mouth. It's a reaction most anyone who has been to Cirque knows (and if you haven't had this reaction while watching their shows, I don't think I fully trust you). I distinctly recall watching a troupe of body stocking clad acrobats leap effortlessly between vertical poles stuck into the stage. They would shimmy up these poles, and then fling themselves out into space, only to deftly catch a different pole between their thighs, and wind up upside down and unscathed. Lemurs cannot do this trick, but here were actual human beings hopping between uprights with an ease that flying squirrels openly envy. After the show Dave pined to be, like the acrobrats, "gravity optional."
I myself am gravity challenged. Over the years I've been known to slip on carrot peelings (no bananas, please - there's no finesse in bananas), trip over air molecules and I've knocked over more than my fair share of glassware. I'm one of the few people I know who can fall up stairs. My eye doctor once tried to explain to me that I'm "horizon oriented", meaning that I am wired to look ahead and away from myself when I walk, instead of down and around, and thus I wind up slipping and tripping my way though life, often sustaining a discomfiting number of mysterious bruises. Some days his explanation sounds good to me - "horizon oriented" sounds like someone I might actually want to be, someone sort of ethereal but also mildly awe-inspiring what with always looking forward. Other days it sounds like my eye doctor was just trying to make me feel better about being an uncompromising klutz.
Today is one of those days I'm going for the klutz theory. I'm typing this essay with a broken arm, and let me tell you it's not the most fun I've ever had. On the other hand (no pun intended), it gave Dave and I the opportunity to check out the French medical system, about which, overall, I have no complaints.
My hubby and I spent Thanksgiving in Brussels and while we may have lacked for turkey (we feasted on fried calamari rings, gnocchi and Chianti on Thanksgiving night), we had a great time. Brussels is a lovely walking city, with a fantastic Gothic square and tons of little shops. It's also a very irreverent city - it's pride and joy is the Mannekin Pis, a fountain in the shape of a little boy doing the duty when nature calls. Believe it or not, they dress up this fountain in elaborate costumes! On any given day he could be impersonating anyone from Napoleon to Elvis.
On our last day in Brussels, a few hours before our flight home, we checked out of the hotel and decided to wander around the city for a bit until it was time to go. Not 30 feet from the hotel door, I tripped over a low lying chain and landed squarely on both wrists. The impact jammed both my elbows, and I thought at first that I had broken my right wrist. I was hauled back to my feet and led back into the hotel, where Dave and I spent the rest of our trip in the bar, which sounds like more fun that it actually was. Over time the wrists hurt less, but both elbows started hurting more. The staff at the hotel was very sweet and concerned, and the doorman found a pharmacy that was open on Sundays and brought back a bottle of "oxygenated water" to rub on my arm. I have absolutely no idea what this was supposed to do for me, but he was in such authentic earnest about it that I could only allow him to slosh it all over my elbow. I wish I could report that I found the answer to your next bruises and bumps in the oxygenated water cure, but alas not.
The flight home was uneventful, but pretty uncomfortable. I'm not a fan of turbulence (who is?), but even less so when sudden movements cause radiating pain. I'm sure you can relate. By the time we got to Paris, I was ready to concede that it was the tiniest bit possible that I should maybe see a doctor in the morning. We haven't had any reason to get acquainted with a French doctor before this, and I'm not generally inclined to go to the doctor in any case. Unless I see blood or it sounds like a diesel engine has parked in my lungs, I tend to set myself up with a lot of aspirin and ginger ale when I'm sick and just wait it out. I think it goes back to having been a Kaiser kid, and at Kaiser, everything that doesn't include visible blood or diesel engines in your internal organs is classified as a virus. It always annoys me to have left the comfort of my warm house to go to the doctors only to be told I should stay home and take aspirin and drink ginger ale.
Well, by the next morning, I was more than ready to see that doctor. Taking the morning bath was quite the adventure, since both arms were very weak, and I wasn't able to put any weight at all on the right one. Dave, ever the trooper, had to help me both in and, more comically, out of the tub. Our cats were of no help whatsoever, quelle suprise. They watched, and I think I heard them laughing about it later. Mainly I think the whole episode confirmed their closely held belief that it is a colossally stupid idea to get in the bathtub in the first place.
Dave called another of the American ex-pats from our office, one who has a son and who we figured probably has had his share of doctor's visits, boys being boys. We got the name of a local doctor and directions, and after another comic interlude wherein I got dressed (try to put on your clothes without moving any of the joints in your right arm. If you don't find it funny, then watch somebody else try to do it), we were off.
We found the doctor's office with no problem, but the doctor took one look at my arm, shook his head and told me I had a virus. No wait! That was a flashback. What he told us was to go to the salle d'urgence (emegency room) and get an x-ray, which we should have done in the first place, but sadly we didn't know where the emergency room was. The doctor doubled as a gas station attendant and gave us directions. Turns out it's quite close to our apartment.
Here's where the French medical system impressed me. With doctor's written orders in hand, we went to the emergency clinic and within 30 minutes had the x-rays. I broke my other arm when I was about 12 and it took no less than 5 hours to get the x-rays done at Kaiser! It may have helped that Dave and I got to the emergency clinic just before lunch and the French take their lunch break very seriously, but I suspect they're just more efficient.
2 sets of x-rays later (I didn't smile for the first set, I guess) the emergency room doctor announced I had a small fracture in my lower elbow. So small, in fact, that he had to go find a specialist to confirm the break. You feel awfully dumb when the main doctor can't even find the break, you know? But between the fracture and the impact trauma the arm definitely needed to be immobilized, so I got a velcro cast and a prescription for Naproxin out of the deal. Total cost including medication? $70.
So for the next 2 to 3 weeks I have outward proof that being horizon oriented isn't much more than a fancy way of saying I'm clumsy. But once this arm heals, I'm thinking of getting a body stocking and some vertical poles so I challenge gravity more impressively. Anyone know a flying squirrel that could act as a test audience?
- KNP Dec 7, '00